My daughter is a ‘free reader’ at school. However, as she is still quite young, she doesn’t have a long attention span and still loves illustrations, so I am always on the lookout for books that are not too lengthy, and that will encourage reading for pleasure as well as helping to broaden her vocab and reading stamina. I only came across these books recently: I was first struck by the illustrations, which have been drawn by the indomitable Tony Ross, and then realised that while the books were written back in the 1990s, they were first published in French and only translated into English a couple of years ago. As far as I can tell, there are currently 3 translated: The New Teacher, The Mysterious Librarian and The New Football Coach. The books have 78-85 pages, 8 – 13 chapters and have Ross’ quirky illustrations dotted throughout. They are aimed at the 6 – 8 age bracket.
Miss Charlotte is a bit bonkers: she looks like a scarecrow and in the first of the series, talks to a rock. She appears out of nowhere to take up vacant positions and approaches her duties in an unorthodox way. However, there is always a method to her madness and she disappears once her job is done. Across the series, she inspires a love of learning and reading and encourages children to beat the odds and believe in themselves. The stories have a pinch of Enid Blyton’s charm, and touch of Roald Dahl’s zaniness, and a dollop of Mary Poppins/Nanny McPhee. My only quibble is with the second book: The Mysterious Librarian, as there are a few things mentioned that I’m not 100% with, due to my daughter’s young age. A child asks for a ‘dirty’ book with ‘bare bottoms’ (in fairness, Miss Charlotte gives him a book about pigs in response!) and there is mention of children ‘effing and jeffing’ and disappearing off to smoke – all things/terms that she hasn’t yet been exposed to and I don’t want to have to explain to her just yet. I might, therefore, hold this book off the shelf until she is a little older, or read it out loud to her, substituting the language as necessary. I’ve not found these widely available yet; I purchased mine from The Book People, and I hear that Amazon is due to stock them soon.
The Adventures of Miss Charlotte series
Author: Dominque Demers
Translated by: Sander Berg
Illustrator: Tony Ross
Publisher: Alma Junior